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  1. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 22, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    Are there frequent hate crimes against women who have had abortions that I’m unaware of? I don’t know that this is an appropriate comparison.

  2. caramel ice
    caramel ice March 22, 2011 at 11:59 am |

    I’m with PrettyAmiable, here. Not that the reproductive rights movement can’t learn tactics from other movements, but that it’s not appropriate to compare discrimination based on something you are with those based on something you do. You might not be trying to engage in oppression olympics, but it kind of reads like you’re succeeding anyway.

    Also not cool to conflate “abortion rights movement” with “feminist movement”, given the struggles of women of color and women with disabilities to not be forced into abortions and sterilisations against their will.

  3. fannie
    fannie March 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Catherine MacKinnon has written that women’s rights are seen as either too specific to women to be seen as human, or too generic to human beings to be seen as about women. “Human” and “female,” that is, are mutually exclusive categories and so a movement- feminism- that is seen as benefitting “only” women is not framed as a human rights movement.n Contrast that with the LGBT movement, a movement increasingly seen as a human rights movement.

    If cis gay men were not a part of the LGBT movement, how different would the movement be? How seriously would it be taken? How much support would the LGBT movement have if we were “only” lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender people?

    Hate crimes against women as women occur every day and they are rarely, if ever, recognized as such. So, when I hear the question why is the gay rights movement so far ahead of the the feminist movement? I speculate that it’s because the gay rights movement affects men- human beings- in addition to mere women.

  4. Muffin
    Muffin March 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    @PrettyAmiable
    I think you miss the point. Steph isn’t playing the oppression olympic game. She’s observing that, for something that is extremely common, abortion has little to no mainstream visibility in popular culture, and women who have abortions deserve something akin to Glee – popular characters representing them.
    And, incidentally, you’re probably forgetting, for example, the murder of Dr Tiller. Women getting abortions and doctors performing them are by no means safe.

  5. gretel
    gretel March 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “our media.” Could you please explain? Because a lot of non-MSM does include positive coverage of abortion. However, the media of Rupert Murdoch does not. Numerous shows (Party of Five, Family Guy; NOTE: I’m not commenting on quality/lack thereof of aforementioned shows) have attempted to include stories about abortion. What happens? Either Fox prevents the show from being aired on television or changes the abortion to a miscarriage.

    There have been some exceptions–notably Friday Night Lights (not a FOX production)–but it takes a certain quality of writing to depict abortion in a nuanced fashion. I’m not sure most shows are up to that. I’d argue that it takes a lot less nuance to depict a kiss between two people of the same gender, because people see people (not necessarily two of the same gender, of course) kissing all the time in many cultures. How many times do you see someone getting an abortion in most cultures? Probably not often, unless you work/volunteer at a clinic. Greater visibility is key, but you can’t have it if people aren’t aware of the reality of abortion. This whole issue seems like a vicious cycle.

  6. andrea
    andrea March 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    If women who have had abortions were more vocal about it, I think it’d be entirely possible that there would be hate crimes against them, sadly.

  7. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin March 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |

    A partial answer is this. Public perception is that gay rights, if we mean marriage equality rights alone, still have a long way to go. So that keeps a fighting edge on people.

    Since abortion is legal (for now), people may believe that the battles have already been fought. Even though basic reproductive rights are being eroded, this has been done at such a gradual pace that people aren’t often aware of it. And, among anti-choice proponents, abortion is murder itself. No one is saying that if LGBTs get the right to marry that anyone or anything will die.

  8. amethyst
    amethyst March 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm |

    I really don’t think the article meant to say who is more oppressed, just that one movement is reaching their goals more effectively.

    Meanwhile,

  9. applepiecrust
    applepiecrust March 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm |

    I can see your point about visibility mattering but this is a completely inappropriate comparison on so many levels.
    Having an abortion is a choice — not a choice that is inherently right or wrong, nor an easy choice, and not even a choice that is easy to go through with once chosen — but an action of free agency nevertheless.
    Being LGBT is not a choice — just expressing your sexual orientation/gender identity/expression openly is a choice. Besides, while women who want to have abortions ARE systematically discriminated against (in that having an abortion is difficult and expensive, and looked down upon by religious zealots), it is not around an immutable everlasting characteristic of self, the way being LGBT discrimination is.

  10. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers March 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm |

    Are there frequent hate crimes against women who have had abortions that I’m unaware of? I don’t know that this is an appropriate comparison.

    There are frequent hate crimes/out and out terrorism against abortion providers, as a direct result of the stigma against women getting abortions.

    And the protests around abortion clinics (and clinics that provide reproductive services that don’t even offer abortion, but don’t deny it as an option) are extremely threatening and upsetting to any woman who uses those clinics (and some who are just passing by. A woman of my acquaintance, who had a traumatic miscarriage, is violently triggered by images of dead fetuses being waved in her face. She’s pro-choice; the people waving dead fetus pictures at her are winning no points, they’re just making her hate them even more.)

    One might argue that there are, in fact, hate crimes against women who have had abortions, but they’re not defined as such. Domestic violence against wives or girlfriends who have had abortions could certainly be classified as a hate crime, if we were willing to consider the class of crimes that individual men commit against individual women for being women as hate crimes — rape and domestic violence in the context of man against woman — but we don’t. We consider those private, individual issues.

    In a sense it’s not an appropriate comparison because gay people are coming from a place where their very existence was criminalized, and they are fighting for the right to exist openly and have rights at all. Pro-choice women are fighting to keep a right women already have, which is being chipped away. And the lack of legal abortion didn’t kill women via hate crimes, it killed women via unsanitary and unskilled medical practices… but it killed nonetheless.

    So pregnant women who want/need abortions aren’t in the same place that gay people were or still are… but the right to abortion and the public sympathy for that right is in *decline*, which is the opposite of what’s happening with gay rights. So if you compare them as two struggles for rights, rather than trying to play Oppression Olympics and decide whether you can compare them on the basis of whether people are actively killing people over the issue, the gay rights struggle is much more successful, especially when you consider that the gay population is between 5%-10% of the human population, but any fertile woman might someday be in a position where she needs an abortion (or a D&C after a natural miscarriage… and in nations where abortion is illegal, D&Cs for natural miscarriage are slow to be performed, causing women agonizing pain, and sometimes sepsis or even death.) Why is something 50% of the population may need as a medical service demonized while the right of 10% of the population to love as they desire is being recognised? (For the record, I don’t mean in any way that gay people do not deserve the right to love who they wish, as openly as they wish, with all the same rights straight people have; that’s a wonderful thing, but why is something five times as many people need as gay rights not considered as important as gay rights?)

  11. Fingon Celebrindal
    Fingon Celebrindal March 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm |

    “hey, I had an abortion, and I’m so relieved to have my life back”?
    It has about as much chance of it being cheered as the following statement.
    “Hey, the girl I got pregnant is having an abortion, no more CS payment for 18 years, I’m so relieved to have my life back.”

  12. andrea
    andrea March 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    Another issue may be that it’s much easier to frame the gay rights movement as positive, and that when you frame it as something that is mostly about having the right to live with and love whoever you want, regardless of gender it has the potential to give people the warm fuzzies, because hey, why fight against love?

    Abortion can be a (note, I say ‘can be’ not ‘is’) a tramautic experience and generally is not something people, even the most pro-choice of would agree is a happy-fuzzy-warm thing to have to go through (although I do enjoy this post – I had an abortion and I’m okay)

  13. Zoe Nicholson
    Zoe Nicholson March 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

    I agree with you entirely. The activism, the vision, the goal for the choice movement is not as robust or attractive as it is for queer rights. However I think it would go better if we celebrated the right moments; two same sex kids kiss – in freedom and in the light of day.
    We cannot celebrate an unwanted pregnancy but we can celebrate a girl coming back to school, a new start, finding a sense of self determination – they she can only have sex with protection. Certainly we have seen celebrations of teen motherhood. It is out of balance.
    Thank you for this post. If all oppressed people banned together this would all go a lot faster and have a better outcome.

  14. Serena
    Serena March 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

    To continue the Glee comparison, when Quinn got pregnant, she never even once vocally considered abortion. The two options she debated were 1) keep the baby, and 2) give the baby up for adoption. I realize that Quinn is a conservative Christian, but I find it hard to believe that she didn’t consider abortion.

    I was a little disappointed when Miranda didn’t get an abortion on Sex and the City. She was the show’s self-professed feminist. The big difference is that she did go to the abortion clinic – and was about to have an abortion when she had a change of heart.

    Roseanne debated getting an abortion I think in Season 4 of the show – but she was debating the abortion because of medical necessity, not because the pregnancy wasn’t wanted.

    I think Maude and Friday Night Lights are the only two shows that how portrayed a lead character actually obtaining an abortion. So I’m with you, Steph. We need to see more positive portrayals of women obtaining an abortion. It would be important to show the harassment they face outside of the clinic, as well as the emotional effects after the abortion. That is the entire story.

  15. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    PrettyAmiable, a relevant quote:

    They are deemphasizing LGBT issues and putting all the energy into the abortion issue,” he said. “For example, in this budget we just had where every very conservative idea was put in, no amendment was put in saying don’t implement repeal of DADT. They are, I think, soft peddling their opposition to LGBT rights because it’s finally dawned on them first that young people think this is nonsense, but also that lots of people in America have friends and relatives who are gay and lesbian.”

    –Barney Frank, insensitively comparing gay rights to abortion rights, discussing the interplay between the opposition to each. What an oppression Olympian he is!

  16. Natalia
    Natalia March 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm |

    As a writer, I’d say that abortion makes for a very different plot device. Abortion does not usually function as the beginning of a story, or a climax – it’s mostly a conclusion. And it’s a conclusion that involves a medical procedure which doesn’t lend itself to the kind of crescendo that, say, a kiss does. This is why I have a hard time picturing a bunch of kids cheering in the scenario you provide.

    I remember a while back, when people were complaining how tired the whole “mystical pregnant woman” thing was in “Children of Men.” It IS tired. But pregnant women are also striking visually (I’m not just saying that because I’m pregnant – I always enjoyed looking at pregnant women, and still do it now. I also notice just how much attention is directed at me.) – and there’s this whole story there, that’s been been a part of the whole human narrative since before civilization. Just like a kiss – it’s also striking visually, it’s also part of a certain kind of narrative. There’s an element of creation to it. An abortion is a much more private thing, even if we manage to untangle it from the whole political war that goes on around it. The blood drop in “Revolutionary Road” or the scene where Arlene wakes up all bloody in the appropriately named “True Blood” – that’s also very visually striking, but in a different way, I’d say.

    I *want* characters who discuss abortion openly and without necessarily freaking out (though that would also depend on the character and the situation at hand). I don’t know if cheering them on is necessarily required, though.

  17. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |

    I know she wasn’t trying to play oppression olympics – she says that in the OP. That said, I think its disingenuous to compare a handful of doctor slayings and chanting outside of clinics (both which are horrible and I’m not suggesting that they’re inconsequential) to constant and systemic discrimination for gay people. There just seems to be a lot of hand-waving when we’re saying, “But they’re getting a lot of screen time. How can we get in on that?”

    Abortion happens on TV. MTV had the show about the teen mom who opted for abortion and I wish they played that during daylight hours. An ABC Family show that I’m horribly embarrassed to admit I watch had a pregnant character mention a previous abortion she had. I tend to watch comedies, and frankly, abortion isn’t that funny so I’m glad it doesn’t come up. Have there really been no abortions on medical shows or other dramas? How does this compare outside the US?

    If anyone is curious how abortion has been portrayed in movies, here’s a link: http://www.movietrain.net/films-that-discuss-abortion-a-movie-list/

  18. Jadey
    Jadey March 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm |

    I find this analysis a bit weird.

    I’m glad that people are supportive of gay characters, but I don’t feel like this is necessarily a *huge* leap considering that they are white, male, cis, and socioeconomically privileged. It’s not like a substantial chuck of fans haven’t loved gay characters for decades (even when those characters were canonically heterosexual and required creative textual interpretation to queer them), sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a creepy appropriative way (and I say this as a long-time slash fan who is currently questioning my adolescent fetishization of gay men). I’m glad that some teens attitudes are positive, but I don’t and won’t assume that these attitudes are going to generalize beyond a select group of acceptable gay people.

    I also feel like the OP is reducing reproductive rights down to abortion rights and ignoring grassroots movements fighting for reproductive rights across the globe. Maybe the reason that these movements don’t get the same press as things like “It Gets Better” is because the people behind them aren’t white or male or socioeconomically privileged.

    I certainly don’t want to see abortions and women who have them as vilified or patronized, but if I’m making up a list of Cool Stuff I Want People To Like On Television, it includes fans cheering on lesbian characters as well as gay male characters, and cheering on women with agency (which doesn’t mean not flawed – it just means more than a plot device) no matter how they express that agency.

    After reading this piece, I’m just struck by the question, who is “us”? Why is “having abortions” the most important and essential characteristic of women’s right and feminism? Is this really what we boil down to?

  19. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 22, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    Roseanne debated getting an abortion I think in Season 4 of the show – but she was debating the abortion because of medical necessity, not because the pregnancy wasn’t wanted.

    Financial necessity, actually, unless I’m thinking of a separate pregnancy storyline altogether. It was a bit of a cop-out in that she turned out not to be pregnant, but before she found out, she and Dan discussed it and she eventually admitted she did want to have a kid even though it was probably deeply impractical. It was a really wonderful portrayal because the entire abortion discussion was about 1. do we or don’t we want another kid? and 2. can we or can we not afford to have one?

    “Is it ok to have an abortion” was never even raised, because for that brief, shining moment of television history, they assumed viewers were smart enough to know the answer was yes.

    And they said the word “abortion” out loud.

  20. andrea
    andrea March 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    I think Maude and Friday Night Lights are the only two shows that how portrayed a lead character actually obtaining an abortion.So I’m with you, Steph.We need to see more positive portrayals of women obtaining an abortion.It would be important to show the harassment they face outside of the clinic, as well as the emotional effects after the abortion.That is the entire story.

    Back in the 80s Degrassi Junior High had a pregnancy storyline where Spike debated both abortion and adoption, but opted to keep and raise Emma. A couple years later the first Season of Degrassi High had Erica opt for abortion. They also showed her being harassed by Liz, whose mother had considered abortion when pregnant with her. Liz was putting pictures of dead fetuses up on her locker, writing murderer on her door etc.

    The interesting twist was that Erica never seemed to have any long-term issues, but a later episode showed her twin, who had vehemently opposed the abortion, but went with her anyway, as teh one who had a hard time dealing with it.

  21. Natalia
    Natalia March 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm |

    I was a little disappointed when Miranda didn’t get an abortion on Sex and the City. She was the show’s self-professed feminist. The big difference is that she did go to the abortion clinic – and was about to have an abortion when she had a change of heart.

    I dunno – was it anti-feminist for Miranda to not go through with it? I’m a feminist, self-professed as well as according to credible sources (lol), and when I unexpectedly got knocked up last October, I certainly FREAKED OUT – but didn’t get an abortion. Didn’t even consider it, actually. I knew the option was on the table, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to go through with it. I knew right away that I’d regret it – regardless of the fact that my family’s financial situation is utter crap at the moment. Having that choice is often a matter of life or death – but if you don’t choose it, you don’t choose it.

  22. andrea
    andrea March 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm |

    Oh, to add to the Degrassi episode, they did also show the protesters harassing Heather and Erica outside the clinic.. It’s interesting to note that in the episodes run in the U.S. (as well as subsequent DVD releases) that they cut out the part that actually shows Erica going into the clinic.

  23. Ricky Waite
    Ricky Waite March 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm |

    I just discussed this topic (sort of) on my blog yesterday. I think the GLBT rights movement has made such progress (in a relatively short amount of time) due to the fact that the GLBT community welcome non-queer members into their community. The GLBT community not only consists of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, gender-variant, and intersex individuals, but also their straight-allys.

    The women’s rights movement and especially the reproductive rights movement needs to make more of an effort to include “outsiders” within our community/culture. It’s one thing for a woman who has had an abortion to stand up and say it was the best option for her, but it’s an entirely different thing for (say, a single-white-gay-male) to stand up and say that “reproductive rights are human rights”

  24. crickstar
    crickstar March 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm |

    Women who have abortions and those who carry out the abortions frequently suffer hate crimes. Anywhere from abortion clinics being bombed, to doctors and nurses being murdered, to women and their support people having to walk through pickets of hateful anti-choice protestors. These are all hate crimes!

    I agree that the comparison of gay rights movement and pro-choice movement is not fair, but Steph acknowledges that… I also think that her point about checking out the sucessful direction action tactics of ACT UP and other organizations is really useful.

    The pro-choice movement may not have compassionate, safe abortion, true options counselling and the follow-up care that women deserve or our own version of It Gets Better but we do have http://www.thanksabortion.com. You should check it out.

  25. andrea
    andrea March 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    Natalia: I dunno – was it anti-feminist for Miranda to not go through with it?

    Put into a different context, some could say that the decision to abort rather than raise a child on her own (you know, without a ‘husband’ *shock* – marriage to steve came later) would be anti-feminist. Again.. it’s about having ‘choice’.

  26. rk
    rk March 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    The pro-choice movement is a women’s movement. That is why we are so far behind. This isn’t even about abortion, it’s about the fact that we’re are for women (and yes, women face PLENTY of hate crimes, to whoever said otherwise).

    To society, men are still considered FAR superior than women. Our society (and many, many others) still teach girls that they are worthless if they aren’t white/thin/cis/conventionally attractive/mothers/wives/etc. We live in a misogynistic society; it’s that simple.

    The gay rights movement is not necessarily a movement for women or for men; it’s for the LGB (sadly, not T) community in general. Not only that, but the gay rights movement has a lot of white, male, cis leaders. That alone is enough for society to take the gay rights movement much more seriously than the pro-choice movement.

  27. Natalie
    Natalie March 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    Serena:
    I think Maude and Friday Night Lights are the only two shows that how portrayed a lead character actually obtaining an abortion.So I’m with you, Steph.We need to see more positive portrayals of women obtaining an abortion.It would be important to show the harassment they face outside of the clinic, as well as the emotional effects after the abortion.That is the entire story.

    Claire on Six Feet Under also had an abortion and was just fine.

    I agree with Natalia though. People aren’t going to cheer for an abortion any more than they cheer when on a medical drama the doctor is like, “Good news, the appendix didn’t rupture.” We just generally, don’t squee about medical procedures the way we do for romantic climaxes.

  28. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl March 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    I realize what you are trying to say here, for the most part, but I find your framing offensive.

    We don’t have gay rights, not yet. So, there’s that. Unless you think two gay men kissing on a fictional syndicated TV show = human rights. And I think *that* meme has been around for a couple of decades now, in one form or another. You could look at some of the preliminary presidential platforms that the conservatives are wheeling out for 2013 to get a feel for our current status on rights.

    Abortion rights already exist. They are being trampled to hell, but the rights exist. Maybe you would like to do a cultural critique on how women are politicized against these attacks? Maybe on how mainstream entertainment doesn’t depict accurate depictions of women and abortion (anymore than it does with gays, FWIW)?

  29. latinist
    latinist March 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm |

    I don’t know Sex and the City at all, but I think the problem isn’t any one particular case of a character not having an abortion (obviously, feminist characters, just like feminist people, are not under any kind of feminist moral obligation to have an abortion). Rather, it’s that that plot — woman has unwanted pregnancy; woman considers abortion; sympathetic characters (perhaps after some soul-searching) are supportive, talk about choice; she decides not to have an abortion, and (often, though not always) the pregnancy vanishes, via narratively-convenient miscarriage or realizing-she’s-not-pregnant — is very common on American TV. (Roseanne was mentioned; I also remember it happening on Scrubs and Dawson’s Creek, and I’m sure there are other examples.) It’s a way of paying lip service to a woman’s right to choose, without having to face the implications or sympathize with a woman who makes that particular choice.

    Degrassi High was really remarkable (maybe less so, by Canadian standards, about which I know nothing) for dealing with abortion so honestly; I didn’t realize that Friday Night Lights and Six Feet Under had also gone there.

  30. NYCprochoiceMD
    NYCprochoiceMD March 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm |

    Zoe Nicholson: We cannot celebrate an unwanted pregnancy but we can celebrate a girl coming back to school, a new start, finding a sense of self determination – they she can only have sex with protection.Certainly we have seen celebrations of teen motherhood.It is out of balance.

    Such a good point. The reason we’re cheering for a gay couple kissing on TV is not because they’re kissing but because we’re so glad they have the freedom to do so, (or the freedom to portray a gay couple kissing on TV, at least) and also to love whomever they wish. Similarly, we should cheer for a woman who gets an abortion not because she’s gotten an abortion but instead because that choice to pursue the life of her dreams was available to her. We cheer for the gay couple’s rights to pursue the love they want, and for the woman who has accessed abortion we cheer for her right to pursue the life she wants.

  31. Aishlin
    Aishlin March 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm |

    I’m with fannie: gay rights are doing better than abortion rights at least in part because gay rights involve men, though of course other issues people have raised here are important too. In fact, I’d go farther and say that the gay rights movement has been so successful because in many ways it sacrifices the women it claims to represent. For instance, the mainstream gay rights movement expends a lot of energy trying to prove that gay men can still be masculine and gay women can still be feminine. This is restrictive for everyone, but in as much as behaving in a stereotypically feminine manner entails being quiet, restrained and submissive, the effect on gay women is especially harmful. In addition, the mainstream gay rights movement prioritizes men’s issues: AIDS, as we can see in the original post, is generally considered to be a gay issue, but lesbian-specific issues are not. The gay rights movement’s treatment of harassment and gay-bashing also focuses on the types of harassment gay men are more likely to receive, ignoring the sexual harassment of lesbians. Lesbians can only see our issues addressed by the mainstream gay rights movement when they happen to coincide with the interests of gay men, as in the case of gay marriage.

    On a related note, I don’t think the “we” of abortion rights supporters is necessarily always separate from the “them” of gay people. I don’t want to do that overly-vicious “You’re marginalizing me…” thing that seems to happen so often here, but I do just want to note that as a lesbian I am part of that segment of the population who might, under particularly terrible circumstances, face an unwanted pregnancy. Apart from that risk, I’m also aware that a failure to protect women’s bodily autonomy in one realm will extend to a loss of bodily autonomy for all women in the long run, through the misogyny it legitimizes and through the tendency to see all women of a certain age as “pre-pregnant” regardless of their circumstances. Abortion is my issue too, and I agree we should fight harder for it.

  32. Shoshie
    Shoshie March 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    Just to add to the Degrassi win, Degrassi: The Next Generation ALSO had an abortion storyline. But I think it wasn’t aired, originally, or wasn’t aired in the US. In the episode, she gets the abortion.

  33. Jadey
    Jadey March 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    *chunk, not chuck, and also I fail apostrophes.

  34. Tim
    Tim March 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm |

    Mary Beth Lacey, of Cagney & Lacey, had an abortion.

  35. Ruchama
    Ruchama March 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm |

    I think that, when Murphy Brown was pregnant, she considered an abortion but then decided to have the baby.

    There was an episode of MASH where Margaret thought she might be pregnant. I think I recall a very short scene where Hawkeye said something like, “You could…?” and Margaret said, “No,” and it seemed like they were really obliquely talking about abortion, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen that one, so I might be wrong.

  36. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat March 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm |

    My “self” involves having a uterus that may one day contain a fetus that I do not want there, which others in society find unacceptable. A gay/queer person’s self involves loving and fucking outside the hetero norm, which others in society find unacceptable. I see why some of you are making the distinction between self and choice, but all I’m hearing is an angry protestation of “Don’t lump me in with THOSE people.”

    Human rights movements are, or should be, about everyone’s fundamental right to BE–in other words, to live their life, whatever that entails, as best they can without other people yelling “UR DOIN IT WRONG!” and coming after them with pitchforks and torches…or snide remarks and subtle blocking.

    (Fannie, I think you have a good point. Gay cis men are still cis men and therefore human–who gives a damn about the rest of us? *ponders the depths of shittiness*)

    Moving on to the content of the actual post: People started telling stories to make sense of the world; fiction is a simplified reflection of life. So when blatant everyday realities (like the existence of queer people and the choice of abortion) are trivialized, stereotyped, or flat-out ignored, the idea that those things should not exist is subconsciously reinforced in society. (If folks spend enough time blithely thinking that certain things shouldn’t happen, they tend to get really pissed off when those things inevitably DO happen.) But if reality is embraced and depicted in all its complexity, people can learn from it. Unknown and unfamiliar situations can a lot less scary if you at least have passing knowledge of their existence. So I think we do need more honest (and positive) depictions of abortion in media. Women making choices =/= evil murders.

  37. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat March 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm |

    *murderers
    Darn those repeating syllables!

  38. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat March 22, 2011 at 2:18 pm |

    Also, am I the ONLY person who saw (and shrieked my freaking head off about) Justin’s first gay kiss on Ugly Betty? Not only was it damn hot snogging, Justin is Hispanic and lower-middle-class and his boyfriend is Caucasian and upper-middle-class, and that was the breakthrough “ah-HA! I like BOYS!” moment for both of them.

  39. Roisin
    Roisin March 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm |

    Christina in Grey’s Anatomy was pregnant in an early series. It was ectopic but when Burke asked if she’d have kept the baby she said no.

    It’s a different story in the UK, due to the fact that abortion is legal and gay couples can have a civil union, they do come up more often in fictional programmes. Abortion is still often presented as a “OMG this is the most terrible thing ever” event, though for some people that is the case it should definitely be more balanced.

  40. verucaamish
    verucaamish March 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm |

    I’m struggling with the frame of this piece. I think the core question is? Why isn’t abortion more visible in positive ways in popular culture? This is a legitimate question to ask. I think it does muddy the waters to contrast it to a kiss between two cis gay men. On that point, one of the worst things I see being done by hipster fauxgressives to show the staff of a Planned Parenthood style clinic as completely insensitive and uncaring. Juno comes to mind but also Knocked Up and the sex ed person in 40 Year Old Virgin.

  41. Noemi
    Noemi March 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    I think the women’s movement is experiencing prolonged backlash, given their considerable success (given how shitty things were). The gay rights movement has momentum now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if things slowed down post-legal equality. Or we even saw powerful backlash, as we have with feminism.

  42. fannie
    fannie March 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    Aishlin said:

    “Lesbians can only see our issues addressed by the mainstream gay rights movement when they happen to coincide with the interests of gay men, as in the case of gay marriage.”

    Right, I find that to be generally true as well, and also true for bisexual and transgender members of the LGBT community. (Remember ENDA?)

    Someone upthread mentioned that the LGBT community is welcoming of non-LGBT people, and that perhaps the feminist community needs to emulate that welcoming attitude:

    “The women’s rights movement and especially the reproductive rights movement needs to make more of an effort to include ‘outsiders’ within our community/culture. It’s one thing for a woman who has had an abortion to stand up and say it was the best option for her, but it’s an entirely different thing for (say, a single-white-gay-male) to stand up and say that ‘reproductive rights are human rights’”

    Assuming for the moment that that’s true, I think that kind of underscores my point from earlier. LGBT people are, what, 10% of the population? Women (who of course are also LBT) are 50% of the population. Yet, women still need men to come in and declare that our rights are human rights for it to count.

    Also, FWIW, I’m not sure the mainstream LGBT community is all that welcoming. Those who wield the most power and get the most attention within the community are cis white gay men, but I have found that the mainstream LGBT community is welcoming to “others” insofar as “others’” interests and advocacy are aligned with the concerns of cis white gay men.

    Where I see many feminist blogs addressing (or trying to address) issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc in mind, how many of the large, popular blogs run by cis white gay men consistently tackle progressive issues other than gay rights?

    As a lesbian feminist blogger, I’ve had to fight some pretty atrocious battles with gay male bloggers whose relative privilege enables them to be clueless about anything other than same-sex marriage.

  43. Brian
    Brian March 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    The women’s rights movement and especially the reproductive rights movement needs to make more of an effort to include “outsiders” within our community/culture. It’s one thing for a woman who has had an abortion to stand up and say it was the best option for her, but it’s an entirely different thing for (say, a single-white-gay-male) to stand up and say that “reproductive rights are human rights”

    This is probably just wrong. People’s opinions on abortion are almost independent of their gender, (e.g. see Soc. Images) so it isn’t all that relevant.

    There might be a small effect that progressive men often follow the “it’s a woman’s decision” from “I shouldn’t have input about a particular abortion” to “I shouldn’t have input about abortions in general” that makes them less visible. But I’m not convinced it’s important.

  44. Glee, Gay Rights & Abortion « hahayourefunny

    [...] Pretty provocative article: Why is the Gay Rights Movement is So Far Ahead of the Abortion Rights Movement? — Feministe. I know what you’re thinking – two gay characters finally kissing and a woman talking about her abortion openly and honestly are two totally different scenarios. Who cheer leads for an abortion? But hear me out. For all it’s flaws, Glee has managed to make a gay kid one of the show’s most popular characters. There’s something a little radical about that. [...]

  45. Sara
    Sara March 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    I strongly agree with the following from the OP:
    “Is it a milestone when two white, upper middle class cis-gendered gay males make out on a mainstream tv show? Yes.”

    Yes, it is a serious problem that transphobia, classism, etc. exist, too. No, that does not make homophobia any less of a problem. Mainstream media sources have powerful cultural influence, and however sanitized it may be, things like the kiss both mark and promote increasing cultural acceptance of homosexuality. The fact that that acceptance benefits cis white male etc. people more than marginalized groups is an unfortunate but inevitable characteristic of nearly all social progress.

  46. Anna
    Anna March 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm |

    When the Degrassi Junior High episode about Erica’s abortion was aired, it was… an interesting time period in Canada.

    I remember it was on the cover of TV Guide and the big thing I remember is the actresses for the twins talking about having to cross a picket line just to discuss how abortion procedures worked and how this was very frightening for them.

    It looks like it was aired in 1989. Tremblay v. Daigle was decided the same year (which is the court case that struck down the limits on abortion in Canada), so this particular episode was aired during a very intense time in Canadian politics around the abortion issue. I know I was following the Daigle case because it was all over the news, but I remember exactly where I was when I learned Erica was getting an abortion. It was probably my earliest exposure to the idea that abortion clinics were picketed and that was bad – even though I was, at age 12, firmly anti-abortion. (I’m firmly pro-choice now.)

  47. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

    The title of this post bugs me; specifically the conflation of visibility in popular culture (primarily film and television) with the success of a movement. I’m not at all convinced that the gay rights movement is as successful as the abortion rights movement; in most states of the US there are few to no protections afforded LGBT people in terms of housing or employment rights, for example.

    It’s also important to not overlook the obvious. Screenwriters who get to see their work find the light of day are predominantly white, male and from plush socioeconomic backgrounds. Sure, abortion isn’t a plot feature, but you’ll also seldom see child care as a background scene despite its ubiquity in the lives of parents. There’s a whole helluva lot of the daily lives of common folks that don’t make it to the rarified atmosphere of the silver screen (how often does a sex scene feature condoms or spermicide? There’s a reason everyone remembers Elaine’s “spongeworthy” routine from Seinfeld–it was one of the rare moments the use of birth control was openly acknowledged onscreen).

  48. Sarah S.
    Sarah S. March 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm |

    I think it’s an issue of where we are vs. where we’re going. Yes, women have many entrenched legal protections right now that GBLTQ folks do not. But…everyone has conceded that in a generation or two, basic gay rights up to marriage are going to be a moot point. I know plenty of conservative-leaning young folks who are pro gay marriage in the Meghan McCain Barbara Bush vein. Republicans aren’t even using it to pander to their base anymore. But abortion is by no means a settled issue. It’s still way more controversial and it’s still a major, major target. So it’s more a question of why have we fallen short rhetorically and in terms of PR where our brethren (and ourselves) in the gay rights movement are moving forward. We’re stalled.

  49. Serena
    Serena March 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    To answer the question about Roseanne debating abortion – she did have an extended debate (3 episodes) midway through the series about whether or not to have an abortion as the result of getting some potentially bad news about the health of the fetus. Dan tells Roseanne to get an abortion, and Roseanne says that she will love the baby regardless. She does go to the clinic and confronts some abortion protesters. Ultimately, her pregnancy is in good shape and the question of having an abortion is taken off of the table.

    But Sophonisba is on point – the show never discussed the morality of the decision because Roseanne (the producer) obviously took it at face value that people would be on board with the ethical side of her decision.

    And I didn’t mean to imply that all feminists always get an abortion when they are pregnant when I brought up the SATC analogy. I simply think it was out of Miranda’s character to keep the baby. But, I think that it has played out to have some positive benefits for the show that Miranda kept the baby – such as the brutally honest discussion she and Charlotte have in the 2nd movie about how tough it is to be a mom.

  50. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |

    Serena — definitely two different storylines, then. The one I’m remembering is from an earlier season; there’s a scene with the whole family lined up in the bedroom waiting to hear the results of the pregnancy test, and everyone cheers when it’s negative, and Roseanne feels like crap because her conflicting emotions were ignored; she felt treated like the potential producer of an economic drain and nothing more. It was a great insistence on the fact that whether a pregnancy feels exciting or horrifying to the pregnant woman is about more than, and is independent of, the basic practical facts of whether it’s “okay” to have a baby right then or not.

    I think it was a philosophy that went hand-in-glove with the extreme — and feminist — unsentimentality about multi-generational mother-child relations that characterized that show. With the many pregnancies it depicted, Roseanne pretended that a wanted or chosen pregnancy — or child — is necessarily a good time.

    Anyway, it’s backstory that sets up her decision to continue the later pregnancy, the one you refer to. That sitcom had more emotional continuity and character depth than most dramas.

  51. McSnarkster
    McSnarkster March 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    I say this as someone who regularly watches Glee and loves the show: I’m glad they haven’t tried to tackle abortion, because their attempts to deal with basically any serious issue other than gay rights almost always fail. The show is often dumb and sometimes even offensive. Yes, they had a teen pregnancy storyline, but they also had a parallel storyline in which a woman faked a pregnancy and fooled her husband for months. (And I don’t buy that Quinn would’ve have seriously considered abortion. Not only is she a conservative Christian, she found someone willing to adopt her baby fairly quickly, plus I doubt small-town Ohio is littered with abortion clinics, and besides, in Ohio, she’d need parental permission, which, considering they kicked her out for being pregnant, I doubt she’d have gotten it.)

    Now, I’m not saying a show or movie even has to be all that deep to deal with abortion well–Dirty Dancing isn’t that deep, but handles its abortion storyline wonderfully–but having watched the past two season of Glee, I really don’t think we want them trying to tackle it.

    There’s also the minor matter that media representation and actual rights are entirely different things. And that having the right to something doesn’t mean we want or need adolescents jumping up and screaming when they see it on television. You’re legally allowed to drink if you’re 21 or older, but I doubt many viewers jumped up and screamed when Will Schuester got wasted in a recent episode.

  52. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    fannie FTW.

  53. V
    V March 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    I feel this comparison is a pretty uncomfortable stretch.
    It’s doable.. in the broadest sense perhaps we could make an argument for morality claims and cultural watch dogs. But I really don’t think think this is appropriate.

  54. Yonmei
    Yonmei March 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

    I strongly agree that one strategy for the pro-choice movement should be getting greater visibility – both in pop culture and in day-to-day life (thanks for the link to “I had an abortion and I’m OKAY!” I love it and have retweeted it!) for a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

    There was an SF series the BBC did, a year or two ago, about the first mission to Mars. I was completely put off watching it because one woman who has been chosen for the mission discovers she’s pregnant a few weeks beforehand, and has an abortion because if she has the baby, she won’t be able to go to Mars. A subplot of the first episode (and, I was told, a continuing thread through the whole series) was that the woman herself, and possibly others, “hear” a crying baby on the spaceship – she’s haunted by the ghost of the dead fetus.

    Now obviously, everyone reacts to abortion how they react. I would never tell anyone in real life they ought not to feel what they feel. But this was a fictional drama about a mission to Mars, and the woman was presented as someone who’d always wanted to go – for whom this was the chance of a lifetime. And what I wanted was for her to say “Yes, it would be nice to have a baby, but, I’ve always wanted to go to Mars,” and have the abortion and – however other people on the ship felt about her decision – be clear herself that this was really, honestly, what she wanted.

    In the original Fame movie one of the characters has an abortion following her affair with Leroy, and she says explicitly to the clinic nurse (presented thoroughly unsympathetically) that there’s no room in her career for a baby. It’s not a positive scene, exactly, any more than Montgomery MacNeill is exactly a positive role-model, but it’s there – she doesn’t have a convenient miscarriage or discover she isn’t pregnant or decide to have the baby adopted. And in the remake, the gay character goes back in the closet, and the abortion scene doesn’t happen at all.

    The women’s rights movement and the LGBT rights movement are closely intertwined: the only people who benefit by trying to set them up in opposition are straight white cisgendered men.

  55. William
    William March 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm |

    I think talking about one movement being ahead of another frames the question in the wrong way, but it does seem that the gay rights movement is trending towards greater acceptance and toleration than the reproductive rights movement. I think that comes down to a combination of socialization and social roles.

    The gay rights movement, for many years, threatened violence. This wasn’t a movement which locked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome.” It was a movement born in large part in the violent self-defense of Stonewall. It was aggressive, it was transgressive, it was dangerous. Marches were scheduled on the anniversary of a violent riot in which the rioters blockaded the doors of and set fire to a building in which their oppressors were hiding. Slogans like “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” were chanted amongst an atmosphere of flagrant law-breaking, literally daring the Powers That Be to start a fight. ACT UP engaged in protests that were designed to cause trouble, embarrassment, and leave the question “what could they do if one of these days these queers showed up with guns?” Politically the movement aimed to become dominant first locally and then use that platform to command disproportionate national influence. They were incredibly successful.

    A lot of that probably had to do with the fact that men are expected to be aggressive and rewarded for it. Much as I’d like to see targeted strikes, burning churches, and armed security, I’m not certain that those kinds of tactics would end up working in the favor of reproductive rights.

  56. marle
    marle March 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    Serena:
    To continue the Glee comparison, when Quinn got pregnant, she never even once vocally considered abortion.The two options she debated were 1) keep the baby, and 2) give the baby up for adoption.I realize that Quinn is a conservative Christian, but I find it hard to believe that she didn’t consider abortion.

    I agree that was weird. The writers decided that she wasn’t conservative enough that she’d have sex with Puck (her boyfriend’s best friend, for those who don’t watch the show) – albeit while drunk, but she never once is shown to think about abortion.

    The show took great lengths how hard being pregnant was for her. Going to high school while obviously pregnant, being kicked off the cheerleading squad, losing her boyfriend, being kicked out by her conservative parents, the medical bills of prenatal care, and then finally she gives her baby (through adoption) to a women she barely knows, probably to never see the baby again. Yet, through it all, the writers never once find a way to say why she didn’t have an abortion, or why apparently never considered it. I’m very pro-choice, and I’d be fine if she was shown to have any reason to choose against abortion, but it was never, ever brought up. That bothered me.

  57. amyt
    amyt March 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm |

    I really just have to praise Degrassi again. I watched the two-part abortion episode where the girl (I forgot her name) had an abortion. It was really good, and I think it should be a blueprint for future episodes containing abortion, as I think it handled it very well–showing that it isn’t always an easy choice (sometimes it is, but I doubt TV will show that side anytime soon) but that it can definitely be the right choice, and one that does not always bring regret. The fact that it’s a teenybopper show and shows an abortion of a (I think) middle-schooler (or young high schooler) is even more surprising, but out of curiosity I watched some other episodes and began to wish that I’d known of that show growing up, as it handled a lot of major issues kids deal with–violence, racism, sex-education, etc. Not always perfectly, but I don’t remember ANY show from my pre-teen/teen years that addressed even close to the real world experiences that Degrassi does. (The newer ones are the ones I’m talking about)

  58. April
    April March 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

    Gay rights opponents and abortion rights opponents are very, very different in one way: one believes that the thing they oppose actually murders human beings. And those people really aren’t willing to compromise on that point, so I’ve noticed.

    On the other hand, Judith Jarvis Thompson’s essay addresses that point very well for people who insist on being opposed for that reason in particular.

  59. April
    April March 22, 2011 at 7:32 pm |

    So, to finish that half-thought, I mean to say that while the two compared groups are very different, they don’t have to be, as long as we don’t screw up the approach. It’s about bodily autonomy, period, in both cases (more or less), and bodily autonomy, most people will agree, should be respected at all costs.

  60. Yonmei
    Yonmei March 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm |

    April one believes that the thing they oppose actually murders human beings.

    My impression is that most prolifers are completely insincere about that; they show no interest in preventing abortions, only in making abortions more difficult & more expensive.

    In general, the people who are aggressively against women having the right to choose abortion and aggressively against LGBT people having the same rights as cisgendered heterosexuals, appear to be motivated by the same thing: misogynistic religious values.

  61. Tony
    Tony March 22, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    April:
    On the other hand, Judith Jarvis Thompson’s essay addresses that point very well for people who insist on being opposed for that reason in particular.

    I don’t think the Judith Jarvis Thompson essay, which underpins the pro-choice position, fully addresses the frame of abortion rights opponents. I agree that it’s a valid and overpowering argument. If you believe in the Castle doctrine as applies to property integrity, as most Americans accept, why then how much more so bodily integrity? The problem is that it still leaves the end of an innocent life, however philosophically valid, is emotionally abhorrent. As long as that is the case, I don’t see abortion ever been cheered on television in the context-less way described in the OP. The Judith Jarvis Thompson essay is not why abortion remains legal in the US and many other countries; Rather, the fact that a fetus is not a fully developed human being, with no consciousness, is an unstated but important part of the abortion rights case. For example, most Americans would agree that fertility clinics don’t commit mass murder by throwing away embryos, but even a lot of pro- choice people will become very uncomfortable on later stage abortion. This issue of fetal development is difficult for abortion rights proponents because we are arguing a negative; but it shouldn’t be dropped just because we have the “bodily integrity” argument.

  62. Tony
    Tony March 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm |

    “most Americans” is US-centric, but I think it applies to other countries where abortion is legal as well.

  63. Yonmei
    Yonmei March 22, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    but even a lot of pro- choice people will become very uncomfortable on later stage abortion.

    Really? I find prolife people (all but the religious extremists) become less uncomfortable on later stage abortions when instances are directly presented to them – they may be able to entertain the idea philosophically that a woman should be forced to have a baby regardless of her feelings on the matter, while simultaneously being less keen on the idea that a woman should be forced against her will to damage her health or her life by having a baby. Many are also uncomfortable with the idea that it’s OK to make a low-income woman have a later abortion because she can’t afford to have it earlier. And deeply uncomfortable with the idea that it’s always OK to force a child victim of rape through childbirth just because she was too ignorant to realise she was pregnant as a result of being abused.

    Later abortions in fact tend to be the kind of abortions which prolifers openly approve of – in practice, when confronted with specific examples – even if in principle they make their misogynistic noises about how they’re sure women just want to have late abortions out of sheer stubborness/on a random whim.

  64. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    I’ve a few reactions. First:

    caramel ice:
    I’m with PrettyAmiable, here. Not that the reproductive rights movement can’t learn tactics from other movements, but that it’s not appropriate to compare discrimination based on something you are with those based on something you do. You might not be trying to engage in oppression olympics, but it kind of reads like you’re succeeding anyway.

    Also not cool to conflate “abortion rights movement” with “feminist movement”, given the struggles of women of color and women with disabilities to not be forced into abortions and sterilisations against their will.

    No-one has even *addressed* the points that caramel ice raised.

    Second:

    Jadey: I’m glad that people are supportive of gay characters, but I don’t feel like this is necessarily a *huge* leap considering that they are white, male, cis, and socioeconomically privileged.

    Yes, this. Everybody talks about “gay rights” without acknowledging the unspoken framing from the white, male, cis, and socioeconomically privileged viewpoint – the kind where the right to get married and to fully participate in white upperclass cis male society is most important. In the meantime, trans folk and poor queer folk of color are concerned with little things like being able to work, having safe and secure housing, and not getting shot by a cop while handcuffed face down on the ground. These are situations that aren’t getting better and aren’t getting any play on the TV shows.

    Third: Saying that reproductive justice is about things one chooses to do whereas gay rights is about who one is, misses the mark. Begin with that poor women, women of color, women with disabilities have been and are still being forced or pressured into having abortions or sterilizations. (Or does no one remember the discussion on the Margaret Sanger thread of just a couple of weeks ago?). And then consider that the pro-liers agitating to restricting or banning abortion and attack family planning aren’t (just) attacking a choice that women make; they are using those attacks to subjugate women. Hence the clinic harassment, restrictive laws, forced sterilization, etc are part and parcel of the climate of violence against women; they are hate crimes every bit as much as rape and domestic violence are hate crimes against women. So saying that women are hunky-dory and just being inconvenienced by restrictions on abortion and family planning dismisses the violence faced by women every day.

  65. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm |

    William: The gay rights movement, for many years, threatened violence. This wasn’t a movement which locked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome.” It was a movement born in large part in the violent self-defense of Stonewall

    Dude. Stonewall was a riot primarily by trans and gender-variant people of color, who were being oppressed by police both on the basis of race and gender identity and expression. It got hijacked by white cis gay men for their own purposes. Read up on Marsha Johnson and Silvia Rivera and what happened to them and their siblings in the aftermath of Stonewall; these trans and queer folk of color who risked their lives (and sometimes lost their lives) in Stonewall and the early organizing in the aftermath were marginalized and driven out of the movement within just a few years. Trans folk *still* haven’t recovered from the losses we experienced as a result of be driven out of what would become the white cis LGB movement.

    In light of that, saying “A lot of that probably had to do with the fact that men are expected to be aggressive and rewarded for it” is laughable, considering that most of the Stonewall rioters were trans women and people of more complex non-binary genders.

  66. Cand86
    Cand86 March 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm |

    This post got me thinking, and made me want to write my own, if anybody cares to read it: What’s Missing From Abortion On TV: Its Providers

  67. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 22, 2011 at 9:38 pm |

    @ Carmel & Galling

    I don’t think the “do” versus “are” dichotomy works here. The discrimination people experience is not because they “choose” to have an abortion…its because they “are” people who are/may become pregnant. Control over bodies with a uterus is the issue and the center of intersecting oppression with regard to reproductive rights. Then again perhaps I’m reframing beyond the intent of the OP.

    @All

    I think its reasonable to ask the question “why do hollywood writers believe fans of glee would (for the most part) be more accepting of two white, cis, upper-middle class, TAB etc men kiss but less accepting of a character having/discussing an abortion.”

    Personally, I don’t think its about movement success or failure. Glee is a comedy about young people, sex and music. So of course sex is going to make into the show while condoms, abortion, STDs are going to get short shrift.

    As I think Jadey mentioned upthread…Abortions are not comedy (except perhaps on Family Guy). Meanwhile, abortion comes up on shows like House or Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice without much fanfare that I’m aware of.

    I won’t say that the pro-choice movement doesn’t have a great deal of work to do in reducing the stigma associated with abortion, but I’m not sure Glee is the appropriate benchmark.

  68. William
    William March 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    Dude. Stonewall was a riot primarily by trans and gender-variant people of color, who were being oppressed by police both on the basis of race and gender identity and expression. It got hijacked by white cis gay men for their own purposes

    Absolutely. That doesn’t change that it became a rallying cry and that the images which were chosen and used by white cis gay men played to the ways in which white cis men are expected to behave. The gay rights movement, much like the mainstream feminist movement that its being compared against here, has always been primarily driven by the people who have had the power to take control of it. My point was that white cis gay men are white cis men and they’ve been able to use the power that comes with that to play with violence and kick-start their own movement.

    In light of that, saying “A lot of that probably had to do with the fact that men are expected to be aggressive and rewarded for it” is laughable, considering that most of the Stonewall rioters were trans women and people of more complex non-binary genders.

    But the mainstream gay rights movement, the one which has ridden the symbol of Stonewall so hard over the years, wasn’t about transfolk. If it was the violence employed would have looked threatening rather than politically normal. I’m not saying its right, I’m not saying its historically accurate, but I think the reason Stonewall became a symbol of the (primarily white and male) gay rights movement was because it was able to be used in specific ways by specific groups of people in order to allow them to make specific gains (probably at the expense of others). Other people, even if they have the capability to engage in political violence, don’t have the ability to make such gains using political violence. Thats why I think one movement seems to have moved faster than others.

    The fact that a lot of it seems to be based in bullshit and theft just means we’re still talking about politics.

  69. Andrea
    Andrea March 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    amyt:
    I really just have to praise Degrassi again. I watched the two-part abortion episode where the girl (I forgot her name) had an abortion. It was really good, and I think it should be a blueprint for future episodes containing abortion, as I think it handled it very well–showing that it isn’t always an easy choice (sometimes it is, but I doubt TV will show that side anytime soon) but that it can definitely be the right choice, and one that does not always bring regret. The fact that it’s a teenybopper show and shows an abortion of a (I think) middle-schooler (or young high schooler) is even more surprising, but out of curiosity I watched some other episodes and began to wish that I’d known of that show growing up, as it handled a lot of major issues kids deal with–violence, racism, sex-education, etc. Not always perfectly, but I don’t remember ANY show from my pre-teen/teen years that addressed even close to the real world experiences that Degrassi does. (The newer ones are the ones I’m talking about)

    If you’re referring to the next generation, then I believe it was Manny. I’m not totally familiar with TNG, but I watch the old series’ like a fiend and for an 80′s teen drama they still dealt with a LOT of issues, and they were pretty good at portraying adolescence pretty realistically (in fact, part of the reason I haven’t watch TNG much is that it seems more glamorized), and without being preachy.

    In the episode where Liz was harassing Erica, Spike calls her on it and Liz asks why Spike isn’t pro-life when she chose to keep Emma and Spike tells her “Abortion wasn’t the right choice for me, but it’s not up to me to tell someone else what to do”. I always thought that it was cool that they presented it in such a way that neither Spike nor Erica was painted as making the wrong choice.

  70. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm |

    William: It seems we’re pretty much in agreement, then.

  71. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm |

    Kristen J.: I don’t think the “do” versus “are” dichotomy works here. The discrimination people experience is not because they “choose” to have an abortion…its because they “are” people who are/may become pregnant. Control over bodies with a uterus is the issue and the center of intersecting oppression with regard to reproductive rights.

    Which is exactly the point that I was trying to make, that said dichotomy doesn’t work for the reasons you stated.

  72. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 22, 2011 at 10:31 pm |

    Arghh…I see that now…I should be an after school special…this is your brain….(egg)…this is your brain after 8 hours of meetings with irrationally stubborn lawyers (scrambled eggs). My apologies.

  73. Azalea
    Azalea March 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm |

    Serena: To continue the Glee comparison, when Quinn got pregnant, she never even once vocally considered abortion. The two options she debated were 1) keep the baby, and 2) give the baby up for adoption. I realize that Quinn is a conservative Christian, but I find it hard to believe that she didn’t consider abortion.

    Why not? There are many women who although they support the right to an abortion would never consider one for themselves unless a doctor recommended it and kind of forced the notion of considering one (weighing one’s life/health against a pregnancy they do not want to abort). Some women just simply do NOT want t ever have an abortion no matter what their circumstances are, if they can live through the pregnancy they will continue the pregnancy and abortion isn’t a 1000th thought.

    Being pregnant doesn’t mean considering abortion.

  74. Aishlin
    Aishlin March 23, 2011 at 12:33 am |

    fannie:
    Someone upthread mentioned that the LGBT community is welcoming of non-LGBT people, and that perhaps the feminist community needs to emulate that welcoming attitude:

    Assuming for the moment that that’s true, I think that kind of underscores my point from earlier. LGBT people are, what, 10% of the population? Women (who of course are also LBT) are 50% of the population. Yet, women still need men to come in and declare that our rights are human rights for it to count.

    Yes, I think that the gay rights movement is pretty good about welcoming certain kinds of straight allies (the white, cis kind mostly), but not so good about welcoming other people within the LGBT community. I’m also not sure the feminist movement needs to do even more ally-welcoming. As odd as it seems to me that there are more straight ally events on my university campus than events for gay people themselves, and that as a teenager it was easier for me to find a PFLAG group near my hometown than to find a group for gay people, at least I don’t know of any straight ally groups which actively exclude gay people, whereas there are male-only “feminist” groups and projects. It may just be my experience, but I don’t think it’s that common to hear self-proclaimed straight allies telling gay people that gay people need to listen to straight people more if we want to win our rights, or that there should be straight-only safe spaces in which straight people can discuss gay rights without worrying about being shamed for their views. So I think the conception that the feminist movement doesn’t do as much as the gay rights movement to welcome allies probably comes about because when people think of the gay rights movement they think of (white, middle class, cis) men, who are not expected to be as accommodating as women. That is, that women are held to a higher standard of “welcoming”-ness, not that we do less of it.

    On topic (since I feel a little guilty derailing so much): is it just me or do media portrayals of abortion and unplanned pregnancies in general disproportionately focus on teenagers and single women? I thought there was that statistic floating around a while ago that some large percentage of women who have abortions already have one or more children, but I haven’t seen a lot of that on TV or in the movies.

  75. Aishlin
    Aishlin March 23, 2011 at 12:52 am |

    (Realized the above comment which might still be in moderation is using “single” as equivalent with childless/child-free, which is a problem even if it is usually true of mainstream media narratives. What I meant is that unplanned pregnancies are portrayed as a punishment visited upon teenagers and young single women for enjoying sex outside of the appropriate family structures, rather than something that could happen to any ‘fertile’ woman.)

  76. L
    L March 23, 2011 at 1:43 am |

    I’m super uncomfortable with this comparison, mainly because I don’t believe the gay rights movement IS ahead of the abortion rights movement…I don’t think that every single gay, lesbian, trans, gender nonconforming or bisexual person in the world was suddenly alleviated last week of the threat of violence and oppression everywhere just because two upper class white gay men shared a kiss on TV. Visibility is really important, yes, but the fact that there is slightly more visibility for LGBT people on TV doesn’t mean that overall the movement is “so far ahead” of the abortion rights movement. Gay kisses on TV do not equal “gay rights”. If we’re talking about the US, abortion is already legal, gay marriage isn’t (and that is just one aspect of the LGBT fight). And I’m sorry, how exactly is the situation for transgender individuals “so far ahead” of the situation for women who have had/will have abortions? That’s a really offensive statement to make, and misses the mark. This totally reads like the oppression olympics to me, as much as the OP insists it isn’t.

    Also, the framing of the question, “gay rights movement” (which includes many things) versus the “abortion rights movement” (which is only one aspect of reproductive rights and feminism). You’re comparing one giant movement to one tiny aspect of a giant movement?

    I just really really don’t feel like these two things can be compared at all, especially when we boil it down to being abortions on TV vs. gay kisses on TV.

    There is nothing wrong with trying to emulate some measures other movements have taken to fight for their rights. By all means, let’s be more aggressive about our reproductive rights being chipped away. I’m just pretty uncomfortable with how this question was framed, maybe it was the title?

  77. E
    E March 23, 2011 at 2:40 am |

    A post where gay rights activists are “them” has absolutely no place on a feminist blog. None.

    And if you find yourself using the phrase “I’m not trying to engage in oppression olympics, but” then you should probably seriously reconsider what you’re writing.

  78. caramel ice
    caramel ice March 23, 2011 at 3:36 am |

    Having an abortion is something that you do. That activity is limited to a single class of people, and the discrimination against it has a wider impact on that class – that’s definitely true, and it’s important to stress that reproductive rights affect everyone.

    But an activity, or an event, is really, really not the same thing as an identity. I personally disagree that being a lesbian is comparable in a meaningful way with having an abortion – including in terms of rights and discrimination. No identity is.

    Plus, yeah. Many others now have pointed out that gay people still don’t have a whole lotta rights. White cis gay male visibility on TV is nice and all, but a lot of extremely basic equal rights are still denied. Saying gay rights will exist in a few decades’ time erases the fact that they don’t, right now, and a whole bunch of real human beings are suffering because of that and fighting to make sure those predictions actually come true. And not just for the white cis gay men, either.

    Why is the abortion rights movement so far ahead of the gay rights movement? That’s not a particularly useful question either. Instead of competing – and excluding some big groups of people for whom reproductive justice does not hinge on the right to an abortion – it would have been awesome if this post had been framed around sharing tactics, discussing successes, intersectionality and working together.

  79. Li
    Li March 23, 2011 at 3:40 am |

    “The title of this post bugs me; specifically the conflation of visibility in popular culture (primarily film and television) with the success of a movement. I’m not at all convinced that the gay rights movement is as successful as the abortion rights movement; in most states of the US there are few to no protections afforded LGBT people in terms of housing or employment rights, for example.”

    This. I’m not interested really in trying to measure who is ahead of whom, especially since there are a whole bunch of people for whom both movements are vitally important. But I think it’s odd to measure success based on mass pop culture, not least because it means, in the case of queer rights in particular, measuring success based on how palatable you are to the people who are oppressing you. Which is kind of a fucked up metric.

  80. Yonmei
    Yonmei March 23, 2011 at 4:04 am |

    Li: This. I’m not interested really in trying to measure who is ahead of whom, especially since there are a whole bunch of people for whom both movements are vitally important.

    YES. THIS. Trying to argue whether women are oppressed more than LGBT people or vice versa is a loser’s game and leaves out the fact that LGBT people are women, women are LGBT people.

    But I think it’s odd to measure success based on mass pop culture, not least because it means, in the case of queer rights in particular, measuring success based on how palatable you are to the people who are oppressing you. Which is kind of a fucked up metric.

    But I think there’s something in it – I agree the title of this post is ungood because it frames this as a competition. But plain simple visibility and acceptance as normal does a hell of a lot for any equality issue. Not just in pop culture, but yes, there too.

  81. Claire N
    Claire N March 23, 2011 at 4:20 am |

    VERITY KHAT!! NO YOU ARE NOT! I EVEN BLOGGED ABOUT THE KISS! IT WAS AMAZING!!

    Hahaha! Very excited. xx

  82. Li
    Li March 23, 2011 at 4:31 am |

    I guess what I mean is that while acceptance and representation is useful, it isn’t really success in and of itself. Like, the benefits from the Kurt/Blaine kiss might be that queer kids in high school might feel less alone and have a better mental health outcomes accordingly. I certainly know that I benefited immensely from having access to Queer as Folk when I was in high school. But good representations of queers in pop culture is a means, not an end, and I don’t think it’s accurate to point to a representation and say “Look! Success!” (which is clearly a massive simplification and kind of obviously hyperbolic).

    I think the same thing is true in the case of abortion. Good representations of abortion might mean that people are more able to consider abortion a real option, but having a bunch of abortions on TV doesn’t mean squat without abortion being accessible in meat space, which I think is a better metric of the success of the abortion rights movement.

  83. Ashley
    Ashley March 23, 2011 at 5:09 am |

    I don’t think the pop culture comparison is the best, and I don’t think these movements are mutually exclusive. However, it would be a heck of a useful exercise for anti-oppression activists of all sorts to actually pay attention to which tactics work. Some movements have been more effective than others. Some movements have been more effective at certain times in history but not others. Why? What did they do, and what resources did they need? Finding out requires paying attention to the history that’s often hard to find, and asking our elders. As Utah Phillips often said, “The long memory is the most radical idea.”

    As long as we arrogantly refuse to know what our elders did for us, our movements are going to fail much more often than they should.

  84. Antoinette
    Antoinette March 23, 2011 at 5:24 am |

    Those posting here who think women are not the victims of hate crimes as a direct consequence of seeking out abortion services do not understand the coordinated and systematic domestic terrorist attacks perpetrated against abortion clinics and abortion providers — doctors are murdered, doctors are harassed and their families are stalked; people picket in front of their homes; threaten to kill them and their children; and the same goes for the staff at these clinics. Right now there is a campaign of violence directed against a doctor in Kansas wishing to take over for the murdered Dr. Tiller; she is being threatened and has been kicked out of her office space because the landlord blamed her creating a “nuisance” when Operation Rescue appeared at the office each day to protest her.

    As to comparing gays rights and abortion rights – many here miss the point. The point of the post is to compare strategy and tactics of both movements and figure out what is lacking in the abortion rights movement. No one is suggesting that gay rights are more “important” than abortion rights. But I think many fail to recognize that without reproductive rights women cannot be equal citizens. When you deprive a woman of her reproductive choices you deny her basic equality.

    Finally, in terms of strategy – I think many women’s rights organizations are reluctant to be as aggressive, for instance, with confronting the lack of support from the Obama administration and Democrats in general; whereas LGBT groups confronted Obama on DADT and DOMA in a very strategic and direct manner and as a result got results. Until we are willing to hold all politicians accountable and not just accept whatever token support we can get – then we will continue to see the onslaught of federal and state efforts to deny basic access to abortion.

    Democrats take reproductive rights activists for granted because they know we have nowhere else to go — they think we can be ignored and then thrown the occasional token piece of support because who else are we going to vote for – anti-choice Republicans? We become powerless because unlike many LGBT organizations we are unwilling to threaten to withdraw support or openly demand action. LGBT groups are willing to be arrested while chained to the White House gate – when was the last time a woman fighting for reproductive rights did that?

  85. Iany
    Iany March 23, 2011 at 6:02 am |

    This is a really odd parallel to make.

    I’ve seen a few people mention how depictions of queers are predominantly white, gay guys. They’re also usually not banner waving, activist guys either. It’s not very threatening and to people who aren’t bothered by white, gay guys, it can be titillating or cute to watch.

    By comparison, having an abortion happen on a tv show is never going to be enjoyable to see. It’s a medical procedure if viewed in the most clinical sense, which can be trying in itself. Aside from that, making the decision can be an incredibly sad or scary experience. Even if the person involved makes the decision easily and isn’t upset by it, there’s still the fact that they became pregnant and didn’t want that to happen, which is a difficult experience. It’s hard to write that sort of story and do it well, ignoring the fact that it would inspire controversy.

    By comparison, a writer who can write a romance scene probably wouldn’t have much difficulty swapping a boy for a girl if all that’s needed is a kiss. And kissing is well regarded as an enjoyable passtime.

    It’s a different ballgame entirely.

  86. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 23, 2011 at 6:21 am |

    I am a queer woman who has had an abortion, and an abortion-rights ACT-UP starts, I am right there. I find the comparison between activist styles very apt.

    And I fucking well would cheer a well-handled abortion on a show I watched regularly.

  87. Yonmei
    Yonmei March 23, 2011 at 7:03 am |

    By comparison, having an abortion happen on a tv show is never going to be enjoyable to see

    But why wouldn’t a TV show be able to present a woman’s relief and joy at having had her abortion – present an abortion as a positive choice?

    Someone upthread mentioned the M*A*S*H episode “What’s Up Doc” where Margaret thinks she might be pregnant. It cops out because she isn’t, and there’s (of course) complicated subplots involving Radar, a rabbit, and a crazy US soldier, but I swear, there’s an exchange between Hawkeye and Margaret at one point where I’m pretty sure Margaret is asking Hawkeye if he’d perform an abortion if she needs one, and Hawkeye’s reaction is “No!”. It’s subtextual, but then so is the gaily-in-love relationship between Hawkeye and Trapper.

    In context, Margaret’s marriage is breaking down, if she is officially pregnant (ie if she doesn’t get an abortion) she’s going to be sacked from the army, which means she’s going back to the US with no husband, a baby, and no job. It would be massively unsurprising if a woman in her position wasn’t seriously considering abortion.

    The episode ends on a tagline from Hawkeye being soppily sorry that Margaret isn’t in fact pregnant, though. Ah M*A*S*H, I loved it.

  88. Medea
    Medea March 23, 2011 at 7:03 am |

    This may be a minor point, but Blaine–or at least the actor who plays him–is mixed race, and looks it, so it’s a little odd to see him constantly described as white.

  89. A Student
    A Student March 23, 2011 at 7:34 am |

    I agree that abortion is not the same type of event as a romantic kiss, and probably should be treated differently on television. But I definitely believe that we need stories where abortion is seriously considered (even if not chosen), and where a woman’s decision to have an abortion is accepted by her family and friends, even if they disagree with it. Even if abortions are legal and safe, they are “off the table” for many women because of the tremendous likelihood of social rejection.

  90. saurus
    saurus March 23, 2011 at 7:40 am |

    La Lubu: The title of this post bugs me; specifically the conflation of visibility in popular culture (primarily film and television) with the success of a movement.

    Oh, this. This only measures how much of a risk corporations (i.e., advertisers who buy spots) want to take with their target consumers. Using a TV show as a litmus test for a success of any human rights movement strikes me as very, very odd. Yes, there are LGb on TV, because they test well with urban women 20-35 who have disposable income (particularly feminine-presenting white gay men whose lives revolve around your wardrobe, food and decor). They also make your show seem more cutting-edge and hip, and as long as you never suggest that they have anal sex (if male), there is a many a demographic that will find them non-threatening and sweet, like when a monkey has a cat “friend” in a Youtube video. But make no mistake: if Hitler tested really well with key demographics, they’d give him a talk show. Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly get them, after all.

    This isn’t how “ahead” abortion or gay rights are, this is how easily they can be co-opted and commercialized. So, like, golf claps for gay rights movement being “ahead” in this respect…but I don’t think the dollar value of a movement according to corporations is the best indicator of its progress.

  91. Steph Herold
    Steph Herold March 23, 2011 at 8:32 am |

    Thanks for engaging with me on this, everyone. I’m learning a lot from reading the comments. A friend of mine pointed out a few things that I want to throw into the discussion.

    1) The feminist movement in general, particularly the larger organizations (NOW, FMF) have largely embraced gay rights as part of the mantle. The gay rights movement’s big orgs have not returned the favor. Why? What’s going on here?

    2) To what degree does identity (such as LGBT) relate to an action (abortion) — or is this something abortion rights movement must do? Identifying as LGBT used to be considered “a lifestyle or an action” and, rightfully so, has moved completely away from that. How do we get there with abortion? Or is it impossible/not worthwhile?

  92. ShawnaV
    ShawnaV March 23, 2011 at 8:36 am |

    I feel like this post is comparing apples and oranges. I think I can best express that feeling with semantics. Abortion isn’t an adjective, it is an act. Something that is done. Gay is a adjective. You can be a feminist, but you can’t be an abortion. It is an unfair comparison to say this many TV characters are X and only this many have done Y. It would be better to say that this many characters are sex positive or feminist rather than focus on these (important) reproductive issues as the only qualification for feminism being on par with the gay rights movement.

    If you really want to look at these two issues in comparison check out how many characters exhibit strong feminist traits compared to how many exhibit gay traits.

  93. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos March 23, 2011 at 8:39 am |

    Thank you, Antoinette @ 83 – you read my mind.

  94. Not Guilty
    Not Guilty March 23, 2011 at 9:34 am |

    PrettyAmiable:
    Are there frequent hate crimes against women who have had abortions that I’m unaware of? I don’t know that this is an appropriate comparison.

    Um, Dr Tiler ring a bell? There is constant violence against doctors that perform abortions, which is indirectly violence against the women. Protests outside clinics, shouting “murderer” at women getting abortions? I’d say that qualifies as a hate crime. Shaming women into silence, victim blaming, slut shaming? All hate crime. All related to abortion.

  95. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 23, 2011 at 9:58 am |

    Having an abortion is something that you do.

    This is as wrongheaded and misleading as it gets. Getting an abortion is something you do, yeah, if they let you. But being pregnant is something that you are. Threatening abortion changes the nature of pregnancy for every pregnant or fertile woman living under an anti-choice regime. Especially for women who want to be pregnant — it’s not a freely chosen state anymore, whether they would have wanted it to be or not. It changes the nature of their experience, just as having voluntary sex with one’s husband was different when marital rape was legal. How can you say yes, to sex or childbirth, when you know can’t say no?

    Living under the threat of forced pregnancy and forced labor affects all women who are physically able to conceive, not just the currently pregnant ones, and not just the ones who wouldn’t want to be pregnant if they were.

  96. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 23, 2011 at 10:32 am |

    Steph, I think those are interesting questions, but I don’t quite know how to engage without seeming totally dismissive….which (believe it or not), I’m not. (my apologies to everyone else for the rampant USian focus of the rest of my response.)

    I haven’t had enough coffee yet, so bear with me. You framed those questions in a way I wouldn’t, and wouldn’t have thought to. For one thing, your equation of feminism with the big-name feminist organizations (NOW, FMF)….that’s a pet peeve of mine. In my world, women who strongly agree with feminist goals do not, have not, and will not belong to those organizations. The view of feminism represented by those organizations is geared towards the needs of upper-middle-class, highly educated women. White women in my world see those groups as “a rich women’s thing”. Women of color in my world see those groups as a “white women’s thing” (with white strongly correlated with class privilege).

    The feminist movement has been subject to a hell of a lot of image assassination in the mass media, but that’s not the only source of its problems. The movement itself hasn’t done much to counter the image presented. And there’s probably no better representation of that than how the mainstream (read: predominantly white, class-privileged) feminist movement framed and fought for reproductive rights.

    The sad fact is, after the right to have an abortion was won, the ball was dropped by mainstream feminism on all the other issues surrounding reproductive justice. As in, where are the marches for universal child care? Where is the momentum for fighting the repeal of Head Start money? Where is the feminist movement on public schools? On welfare deform? On the minimum wage? On adequate housing? Because if you visit the websites and read the printed material, it all sounds good…it just isn’t visible in any material sense. Not out here in the rust belt.

    Frankly, the mainstream feminist movement offers me, a working class woman, a fraction of the feminist liberation that the labor movement does. The labor movement is doing a much better job at securing and maintaining my feminist goals than the feminist movement! Despite the slings, arrows, and opposition we in the labor movement face!

    With your second question, you seemed to allude that identifying as a feminist would necessarily lead one to identifying strongly with abortion rights. That’s not necessarily wrong. But….the mainstream feminist movement has only recently recognized the needs of the larger reproductive justice movement, and that was in response to the critiques of women of color—-women who were no longer willing to perform photo-ops at demonstrations when all they got was lip service in return.

    I’ll be a little more blunt: in labor union circles, the inaction of the AFL-CIO towards Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers was seen as a watershed moment. In the same way, the (mainstream) feminist movement’s invisibility in the lives of working people after the defeat of ERA is a watershed moment.

    Maybe I’m totally off base here. Maybe this is just sour grapes on my part. But it seems that non-USian feminist movement has stronger ties to the greater struggle of marginalized people(s), and that those greater ties give it greater strength.

  97. Iany
    Iany March 23, 2011 at 11:11 am |

    Yonmei:
    By comparison, having an abortion happen on a tv show is never going to be enjoyable to see

    But why wouldn’t a TV show be able to present a woman’s relief and joy at having had her abortion – present an abortion as a positive choice?

    Even if the choice is a positive one, the lead up to it pretty much can’t be. If you find out you’re pregnant and do not want to be, you’re going to experience some pain and confusion. At the end of it, it’s not a “we’re here, we’re queer and we feel pretty awesome about that!” It’s a “whew, I didn’t want that now/yet/ever.” Difficult to write well, as I said, even for a character resolute and comfortable with the choice to have an abortion.

    Even if you’re the most sure person in the world, that sort of bombshell is going to shake you. That’s why I say it can’t be enjoyable, it’s not same as coming out, which is good for your sense of identity pretty much automatically. Unlike homosexuality, an abortion is a choice. An important choice to be able to make or not make as you desire.

    That’s my point really, apples and oranges. Decisions which can be positive (after a large shock and maybe consideration if you have a partner) or incredibly painful, versus an integral part of your identity which you cannot change (admittedly also with potential repercussions which can hurt like hell).

    I’m a woman and I’m gay, I feel very strongly that if someone tried to equate my sexuality to my reproductive rights (in this case my sexuality really is distinct from the latter), I’d be weirded out. That’s why I feel weirded out by this article, I feel like these are different battles, especially since not everyone is going to feel positive after an abortion, even if it is the right decision. I don’t want abortion to become present in the shows I watch and have it depicted as something entirely unupsetting every time, just because I wouldn’t want someone to think they weren’t allowed to feel an abortion was the right decision and still grieve a bit. I want to see it as a choice but the idea of “I got my life back” doesn’t ring universally true to me. It even seems a bit creepy, like a backlash against all the times a female character has contemplated an abortion, not got one, then decided kids were the best thing ever. Nobody ever felt unsure of their choices after?

    For that matter, I’d occasionally like to see a character come out on a tv show and feel a bit ambivalent about the result. (Seriously, is there something wrong with me that sometimes I do feel ambivalent about that? I thought I was supposed to be fabulous and confident now!)

    And this became very tl;dr, I guess my point is just that becoming pregnant unexpectedly and having an abortion is always going to be a trial and not in the same way that acknowledging part of your identity is, you’re forced to choose something instead of acknowledging what is and cannot be changed.

  98. Sara
    Sara March 23, 2011 at 11:11 am |

    Li said: “But I think it’s odd to measure success based on mass pop culture, not least because it means, in the case of queer rights in particular, measuring success based on how palatable you are to the people who are oppressing you. Which is kind of a fucked up metric.”

    Why? When oppressed groups become more “palatable,” it’s a sign of gradual reductions in prejudice. Prejudice facilitates oppression in the first place.

    In short, I agree with Yonmei: “plain simple visibility and acceptance as normal does a hell of a lot for any equality issue. Not just in pop culture, but yes, there too.”

    Li also said “I don’t think it’s accurate to point to a representation and say ‘Look! Success!’”
    I agree, but I also think that would be true of anything. There is nothing (nothing plausible, anyway) I would ever point to and say, simply, “Look! Success!” There are lots of things I would point to and say, “Let’s do more of that.” I think it’s important not to disincentivize working toward positive representations and other progressive outcomes/methods.

    This question is, for me, entirely separate from the question of whether it’s appropriate to make a comparison between two movements. I read the OP as saying “let’s apply some tactics we used in one place over here in this other place, because it seems like they worked pretty well.” I did not read the OP as saying “OMG those gay people are winning the activism race,” which is the straw man I feel a lot of people are responding to. Some of the phrasing in the OP was a little problematic, and that’s definitely worth pointing out, but the gist seems reasonable enough.

  99. Natalia
    Natalia March 23, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    La Lubu, as usual, makes really good points about the nature of most television programs. Most writers for shows (and I ought to know – since I’ve been one, and would like to be one again… money is tight, ya’ll) are not required to portray reality or, in fact, humanity (considering how many shows have elements of sci fi and fantasy to begin with). Most are merely required to figure out ways to sustain the ratings. Every once in a while, we’ll have something different on our hands – such as “Six Feet Under”, for example, I think I’d put it in the category of a successful show that got a lot of things right about people and some of our more uncomfortable realities. But overall – TV is TV. It usually cannibalizes most societal trends.

    Also, back in the halcyon days of ER – there was abortion stuff going on there, and it wasn’t… shocking? I guess? Medical dramas in general just tend to deal with it.

  100. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl March 23, 2011 at 11:50 am |

    Why? When oppressed groups become more “palatable,” it’s a sign of gradual reductions in prejudice. Prejudice facilitates oppression in the first place.

    Really? I was told by a commenter at Feminist Critics that lesbians have it easier than gay men because of ‘our’ prominence in mainstream porn.

    Also, assimilation does not equal tolerance or acceptance. It just means the *queers* are playing in a manner that the dominant paradigm decides is palatable. In other words, assimilation = tokenism. As in fictional characters kissing during a Glee episode.

  101. norbizness
    norbizness March 23, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    I heard that for each abortion shown on network TV, 6 hours gets knocked off that South Dakota waiting period.

  102. Natalia
    Natalia March 23, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Most writers for shows (and I ought to know – since I’ve been one, and would like to be one again… money is tight, ya’ll) are not required to portray reality or, in fact, humanity (considering how many shows have elements of sci fi and fantasy to begin with).

    Crap. In saying that, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that good sci fi and fantasy don’t have genuine character portrayals and dramas that we all can relate to, etc. Whups.

  103. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl March 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm |

    To Steph: I think you’re also conflating identity politics with being queer and identity politics aren’t something that you can use to relate to abortion. A closer comparison would be if queers were already a protected class and the issue was just states’ rights over the marriage controversy. Marriage is a closer corollary because it is a choice, like abortion, and because not all queers want/need it, and because our civil rights shouldn’t hinge on this choice, but should be a given – not unlike the status of women as a protected class. Women are a protected class, and abortion is a protected right. Queers don’t have either of these, and again, I am offended that you seem to gloss over this to make your larger point.

  104. Marle
    Marle March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Azalea: Why not? There are many women who although they support the right to an abortion would never consider one for themselves unless a doctor recommended it and kind of forced the notion of considering one (weighing one’s life/health against a pregnancy they do not want to abort). Some women just simply do NOT want t ever have an abortion no matter what their circumstances are, if they can live through the pregnancy they will continue the pregnancy and abortion isn’t a 1000th thought.Being pregnant doesn’t mean considering abortion.

    I agree that not every pregnant woman will consider abortion, but it was weird that the show didn’t give us any reason why Quinn wouldn’t. I know a 19 year old girl who’s pregnant, and she’s so damn excited about it that of course I’m not going to ask her if she’s considered abortion. But Quinn was miserable being pregnant. Every episode at that time on the show had something new that was difficult and hard for Quinn, or had her crying or yelling over something directly related to being pregnant, and yet the writers couldn’t figure out how to make her make one comment about why she was doing that instead of have an abortion? They were trying to pretend that abortion didn’t exist at all, and it made it rather unrealistic.

  105. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl March 23, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  106. Sara
    Sara March 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    Q Grrl: Really?I was told by a commenter at Feminist Critics that lesbians have it easier than gay men because of ‘our’ prominence in mainstream porn.

    Also, assimilation does not equal tolerance or acceptance.It just means the *queers* are playing in a manner that the dominant paradigm decides is palatable.In other words, assimilation = tokenism.As in fictional characters kissing during a Glee episode.

    Images of “assimilated” gay people do not imply that gay people must assimilate. They do, however, help frame gay people as acceptable. Cultural communication necessarily builds on existing cultural preferences. Little progressive gains are still gains.

  107. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |

    They were trying to pretend that abortion didn’t exist at all, and it made it rather unrealistic.

    I’ve never seen the show, but since other posters here identified her as a conservative Christian, I’d think that would be explanation enough as to why she didn’t consider abortion (especially considering her age and the fact she relies on her parents for housing and basic needs). Where I went to high school, having and keeping your child was the default, but one of my friends had to give her child up for adoption as her father was a deacon in his church—she wasn’t afforded the option of either an abortion or keeping her child.

  108. Sara
    Sara March 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm |

    It’s kind of funny that I so often end up seeming to adopt both answers to this question. I should be clear that I strongly believe there could be so many better images to work for, and so many better forms of cultural communication. I’m trans – I certainly complain a lot about the lack of positive representations of trans people in mainstream media. I just think it’s most accurate to say this is a small but positive thing – not saying bigger things aren’t worth working for.

  109. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl March 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm |

    Sara, I disagree, which is why I chose “tokenism” to describe this type of cultural narrative. What have we gained by two men kissing on Glee? Anything? Some squeeling tweens?

    Images like this are not new. Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Torchwood (2006) broached the same social taboos (quite nicely). At the same time, these “little gains” have done very little if we’re *still* having the same debate six years later.

  110. groggette
    groggette March 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm |

    La Lubu: I’ve never seen the show, but since other posters here identified her as a conservative Christian, I’d think that would be explanation enough as to why she didn’t consider abortion (especially considering her age and the fact she relies on her parents for housing and basic needs).

    I agree, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t have mentioned abortion, if only to say she’d never consider it. It’s completely anecdotal, admittedly, but that’s what happened when my best friend got pregnant while attending our conservative catholic high school. Abortion was brought up once, just once, and it was a dismissal of the idea, but it was still brought up.

  111. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos March 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    What is up with has-been or never-was 80′s “actors” returning to the spotlight as vicious, hate-mongering spittle-flickers?

    Gallagher. Ms. Jackson. etc ad pukem. Are they seriously this unhinged or are they taking a page from Glenn Beck’s “Spread Lies and Bigtory – and Get Rich!” playbook?

  112. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    Not Guilty: Um, Dr Tiler ring a bell?

    You should probs read my other comment before getting snarky.

  113. Jo
    Jo March 23, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    andrea:
    Another issue may be that it’s much easier to frame the gay rights movement as positive, and that when you frame it as something that is mostly about having the right to live with and love whoever you want, regardless of gender it has the potential to give people the warm fuzzies, because hey, why fight against love?

    Abortion can be a (note, I say ‘can be’ not ‘is’) a tramautic experience and generally is not something people, even the most pro-choice of would agree is a happy-fuzzy-warm thing to have to go through (although I do enjoy this post – I had an abortion and I’m okay)

    I think that andrea has an important point.

    Though I do think that sometimes the “focus on the happy stuff” strategy of gay/queer organizing can erase and silence the oppression people experience, it also does one really important thing: challenges, removes, and erases stigma. When the message being sent is “being queer is awesome! let us do it as our full selves!” we are framing the entire fight in terms of something people can feel excited to get behind. We refuse to concede that there is any shame or reason to be hidden – because being who we are totally kicks ass.

    I understand the strategy behind it, but I think that over the last 30 years or so, the pro-choice movement has often conceded to argue in terms of “harm reduction.” ie “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.” I’m not saying that abortion can’t be hard, traumatizing, or difficult for people – but so can pregnancy. And the mainstream dialogue about pregnancy doesn’t frame it as a necessary but unfortunate reality for the sake of procreation. (I’m not saying it should be, just pointing out that it isn’t.) We, in the pro-choice movement, however, often concede that we’d prefer there be fewer abortions. And some of us do, and that’s okay. I think that this is often coming from a place of recognizing that pregnancy prevention is cheaper and safer than abortion – it still doesn’t actually challenge an underlying attitude that abortion is undesirable (even if necessary).

    I went to the Defend Don’t Defund rally in Boston this past weekend, and I carried a sign that said “Abortion Without Apology.” A friend-of-a-friend who was at the same sign-making brunch saw it and said, “whoa. That’s intense.”

    I was shocked, although perhaps I shouldn’t have been. If the “abortion without apology” sentiment is too “intense” for pro-choice rally goers, I think we have a problem. Because what can you infer, except that we should expect folks who have abortions to apologize for the regrettable circumstances in which they’ve found themselves? I can’t fathom a feminist and/or reproductive justice activist responding that way to a poster that said “Birth Control without Apology,” or anyone who is generally down with western medicine responding like that to a sign that said “Flu shots without apology” or “mammograms without apology.”

    Fundamentally, we need to shift the paradigm, or we’re fighting a losing battle. Conceptually, until abortion is widely considered a basic medical procedure among many ob-gyn procedures that a person may or may not undergo in their lifetime for any number of personal or health reasons – we will be pushing uphill. Abortion debates will still be about moral values, rather than health care access – and that is a major problem.

    Also, my apologies if someone already said this. I just skimmed the comments.

  114. Cagey
    Cagey March 24, 2011 at 1:23 am |

    No, the white, cis, middle-class, male gay rights movement is ahead. Anyone who doesn’t fit into the above is however not seeing themselves represented all that often. Even the ones that do are being represented in very limited ways still. I don’t think a few positive portrayals of gay people on TV is somehow indicative of some massive change that the abortion rights movement should be reaching towards. We’ve had open gay relationships portrayed positively (or at least non-negatively) on US TV for almost 20 years and last I checked, I still don’t have a shit ton of rights in most of the US that the average straight US citizen does.

  115. Blacky
    Blacky March 24, 2011 at 6:47 am |

    April:
    Gay rights opponents and abortion rights opponents are very, very different in one way: one believes that the thing they oppose actually murders human beings.And those people really aren’t willing to compromise on that point, so I’ve noticed.

    Which is exactly why presenting an abortion as something “cheerworthy” might damage the pro choice movement more than it would help it.

  116. Azalea
    Azalea March 24, 2011 at 9:23 am |

    Marle: I agree that not every pregnant woman will consider abortion, but it was weird that the show didn’t give us any reason why Quinn wouldn’t. I know a 19 year old girl who’s pregnant, and she’s so damn excited about it that of course I’m not going to ask her if she’s considered abortion. But Quinn was miserable being pregnant. Every episode at that time on the show had something new that was difficult and hard for Quinn, or had her crying or yelling over something directly related to being pregnant, and yet the writers couldn’t figure out how to make her make one comment about why she was doing that instead of have an abortion? They were trying to pretend that abortion didn’t exist at all, and it made it rather unrealistic.

    Because pregnancy isn’t easy for everyone, in fact it can be really seriously unpleasant and miserable with hormones, emotions flying, nausea, aches, pains and people who act like pregnant women are an art exhibit to be touched and gawked at. I went through HORRIBLE pregnancies and I griped the whole way through but abortion was so not an option I considered and even got a little indignant when it was recommended for health reasons after I had made it clear I WANT my pregnancy to continue to childbirth. I had not seen those episodes of Quinn’s pregnancy but I would say THAT segment was being realistic. A lot of women who continue their pregnancies never consider abortion (pro-life or pro-choice because they dont want to have an abortion, not because they dont want to be pregnant at that time), a lot of women who consider abortion don’t have one (sometimes because they weren’t pregnant or because they miscarry) then there are women who considered abortion and didnt do and those who never thought they would consider it who not only think about it but decide its whats best ofr them at that time. There is no one size fits all and that makes sense to me. Reproductive choices aren’t always an “if p then q” situation that can be rationalized en masse. I would be upset if a character who was pro-choice who made it clear before that she felt had she gotten pregnant at “x” time that she’d have an abortion all of a suddent started considering keeping the child just to pacify pro-life viewers. Quinn was a conservative it made sense that she wouldn’t consider an abortion, that she woud not be happy pregnant in high school and that she’d have the baby. Although she hadn’t considered abortion the show, in its silence portrayed why an abortion may have been a good choice to avoid all of the crap she dealt with and endured while being pregnant when it was clear she really didn’t want to be.

  117. Vigée
    Vigée March 24, 2011 at 11:44 am |

    But Azalea, abortion is rarely mentioned as a viable option At. All. in popular culture. It’s not just about representing the fact that for some women pregnancy is very difficult, it’s about, as Marle said, pretending the option of abortion doesn’t even exist. It’s erasure, pure and simple.

  118. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm |

    Which is exactly why presenting an abortion as something “cheerworthy” might damage the pro choice movement more than it would help it.

    Because being unashamed of your valid moral opinion and being brave enough to say it out loud is only for the other side. Keep your heads down, girls, and shut your mouth.

  119. Rollingforest
    Rollingforest March 24, 2011 at 10:05 pm |

    Unlike on this site, a large percentage of people in America view the abortion debate as a debate over when personhood begins. Most of these people are not comfortable aborting a person. Therefore, as long as they are told that personhood begins at conception, they will oppose abortion. The “famous violinist” argument won’t sway them. Only by defending the idea that a fertilized egg is not yet a person will the pro-choice side be able to win them back.

  120. María
    María March 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    Azalea is really wrong. Where, does abortion presented as a harmless choice, not to mention positive for a woman’s life in the long run, tell me? She doesn’t live in the developing world, it seems… Where I live, abortion is illegal. (think, Mexico) A woman can not only be jailed (and it does happen, but also fired from a job, traumatized even when seeking “healthcare”, and even face pjysical retaliation. Why does a state in which poverty is dire needs more children, only to make the richer richer. The truth is that the birth of a child is not always a good thing. What??? Yes, what s the morality of alowing a child to be born if the mother will die or it will endure a life of abject hunger. But that s the last thing the idiotic prolifers think about. It’s more about the alleged salvation of souls that don’t even exist in an afterlife that doesn’t exist. And a lot of it it’s about controlling women and making sure they don’t have absolutely any sex out of marriage.
    I rest an interesting case; in Latin American countries, gay marriage is being legalized at lightning speed (Argentina, Brazil, etc) but abortion is not. It’s completely illegal n the whole contnent. Wonder why???

  121. snobographer
    snobographer March 27, 2011 at 7:02 pm |

    Rollingforest:
    Unlike on this site, a large percentage of people in America view the abortion debate as a debate over when personhood begins. Most of these people are not comfortable aborting a person. Therefore, as long as they are told that personhood begins at conception, they will oppose abortion. The “famous violinist” argument won’t sway them. Only by defending the idea that a fertilized egg is not yet a person will the pro-choice side be able to win them back.

    That “personhood” argument is pretty transparent when you consider even the oppressive patriarchs of the 19th century allowed for abortion up to the point of “quickening,” antis’ knee-jerk dismissal of any science that can’t be made to serve their agenda of prioritizing the rights of fertilized eggs over the women in whom those eggs reside, and Maria’s comment at 119, just for starters.

  122. snobographer
    snobographer March 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    María: Why does a state in which poverty is dire needs more children, only to make the richer richer. … And a lot of it it’s about controlling women and making sure they don’t have absolutely any sex out of marriage.

    Keeping women pregnant or raising children all the time keeps women out of the paid workforce, reducing economic competition. It also bolsters male supremacy by keeping women stuck doing all the unpaid and devalued labor and making them dependent on men for survival. It’s not really about fetuses or babies or personhood or murder or personal responsibility or any of their bullshit buzzwords. It’s about preserving the gender binary and women’s second-class citizenship.

  123. pandagon.net - it's the eye of the panda, it's the thrill of the bite

    [...] Steph Herold, writing at Feministe, put up a post that’s been gnawing on my brain for a few days, and I want to post a couple of points arguing with Steph and a larger point offering an answer to her question.  Steph asks why the gay rights movement is ahead of the abortion rights movement, observing that “Glee” had an episode with two dudes kissing and it was considered sweet and romantic, and you’d never see such a positive portrayal of abortion on TV.  She is right that positive portrayals of abortion on scripted TV—at least, as positive as you can get, which is to say portraying it as an acceptable decision that, while no fun for the woman involved, doesn’t cause permanent damage either—are rare.  I can only think of two, one in 1972 on “Maude” and one recently on “Friday Night Lights”.  But I would hardly say that the gay rights movement is ahead of the abortion rights movement for that. [...]

  124. the reading list | diverge
    the reading list | diverge April 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    [...] Why is the Gay Rights Movement is So Far Ahead of the Abortion Rights Movement? [...]

  125. About Those Oppression Olympics « Sasha Said

    [...] is considered more normal and acceptable than some other types of bigotry. Simply pointing to the success of another social justice movement and asking, “How can we learn from that?” is enough to get feminists accused of playing [...]

  126. Reading and Assignment for April 22 « Women, Culture, and Identity

    [...] talk to each other across blogs: you might note, for instance, the recent dialogue here between feministe and pandagon around abortion [...]

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